DM Haight

In a world, where a dog is psychic, and a man is a boy, but more manish than boyish, and he talks to a psychic dog, and they wander a barren wasteland in the aftermath of World War IV, we know that no one can find a woman to save the human race. If you are like me, you read most of that with an epic trailer voice, and you probably became more intrigued as that sentence went on. For all intents and purposes, that sentence is a fair summary of one of the granddaddies of post-apoc films–A Boy and His Dog. What’s special about this movie isn’t the over-the-top performances from just about every supporting character, but instead the imaginative possibilities of a post-nuclear war world, where the landscape is little more than dust, people can’t read, and where building a population is a seriously difficult pursuit. It’s a film with a lot of humor, but it is also a surrealist vision of a world we have to admit, in some ways, could happen. Of course we aren’t going to have a psychic dog (or at the very least it is highly unlikely), but the other factors we could face is the fallout that not only the environment could face, but that of the human race and its civilizations. It’s one of the best themes of the post-apoc genre, one that analyzes the humanity we retain in the after world that we inhabit. Do we become murderers, heroes, anti-heroes, victims, crazed, sane? How do we adapt to a world that we no longer understand? These are the questions posed by A Boy and His Dog, and they are the questions that continue to resonate throughout the post-apoc genre, simply because they are the best questions we can ask that we know have no definitive answer.

In the land of post WWIV, the desert has taken over completely. People scrounge up what they can, eating the foods of a lost civilization, unable to read, or truly comprehend what it was that existed before themselves. They don’t reminisce, only survive, albeit humorously, with a tinge of true horror in there as well. Vic is a lone wolf type: he wants to eat, fornicate, and keep moving. His dog, Blood, is telepathic and can speak to him with the powers of his own mind. This is already and immediate indication of the post-apoc genre–the mutation of a species. It’s a motif and theme that’s used in almost every post-apoc film that doesn’t deal in zombies, and even in some that do. Blood’s mutation is that he can now speak with Vic, not to mention find women. The human population is decimated, and the landscape is not only barren of fertile soil and good grubs, but also of companionship and a decent frolic in the sack. Blood’s mutation is used in other mediums of the same genre, be it literature (which A Boy and His Dog is based from), video games, television, comic books, or anime, and the list goes on. Mutation is something that often hinders us in the future of the dusty world, but it also shows up in us as an adaptation. A piece of a rushed evolutionary process.

In this way we can see how the old ways cling to those who refuse to adapt. On the surface of the world, where Vic lives, steals, eats, and runs around, there is a lack of intelligence, no doubt, but they have adapted and have a slow rebuilding process. They can watch movies, which means they can tap electricity. They are maybe a century or two behind where we are now, but they can make that up as soon as they can read, and as soon as they can find real water and fertile farmland. They’ll survive, no matter how idiotic. This upper world is non-religious. It’s a wasteland, and it’s barbaric. The moral code is eat what you can when you can. It helps to keep a sarcastic, psychic dog at your side for company as well. But the lower world, the bunker of sorts, is a place where the old civilization clings to life in one of the more macabre ways we’ve seen in cinema up to 1975. They have painted faces like clowns, buffoonish and ridiculous. With the help of their hidden society, they live underneath the earth and hold on to the remnants of a stagnant life caught in a kind of stasis. They have a corrupt government, take what they want from other people in covert operations, spread a huge blanket of religious dogma over their people, and feed and shelter those who they protect–not to mention the robotic head crushing andriods. No, mussn’t forget those. This is what their society has become, a glimpse at a past of the world that has been long forgotten. They have monotonous voices over intercoms keeping people calm with useless information; they marry people off keep them from gaining power; they are the ones who refuse to evolve, which has led them to become sterile. They need those who have evolved, but in a way that makes those they need disposable. Instead of waking up to the time and place they inhabit, they stay in a bunker like a time capsule. Except they don’t want to be opened if they can avoid it.

Their refusal to come to terms with the facts of nuclear aftermath leaves them in a hole. Vic is not bound to that hole. He is used by them to create a new generation, but in a scientific way, a sterilizing way. He’s lost his worth to society. Up in the devastation he has power. He can steal, he can mug, he can kill, and he’ll have zero repercussions because he can run away. There is no law looking for him. He’s free. But in the bunker he is hunted, he is not free, and he has no power. He’s hooked up to a machine that milks him for his genetic material. He’s a useful cog in the procreation of a race destined to a hole, inheriter of an artificiality. Once Vic breaks free he escapes from that hole and finds freedom, but with a companion beside him, the one who lured him into the hole. Quilla wants to stay with him. Whether that’s because she can’t return to the bunker and is in need of a protector, or because she actually loves Vic is up to question. But when Vic returns to the surface and finds Blood on the ground, starving and dying, he knows he can’t allow his friend and asset of survival to expire. Blood needs food, and in a sick turn of events we cut to the next scene and find the duo sans one Quilla, a smoking fire and remarks about her good “taste” in men. Cannibalism makes its way into the world of A Boy and His Dog. It is yet another motif of the genre, and a fear that we confront when desperation rears its head around a corner. Why do we eat our own kind in post-apoc? Because the value of human life is nothing. It’s a dog eat dog world, and those dogs eat each other to keep up the energy to move one more step. If you aren’t part of the trusted circle you could be viewed as a meal, no matter how advanced you may appear to be. The unaltered nature of those in the underground leaves them at a disadvantage. A lack of adaptation hinders what they can do when confronted with desperation. They don’t know how to react, or how to escape. They are the domesticated cow, while those of the upper world are wild bovine. One is destined to be meat, the other has a choice. And when two worlds collide in the post-apocalypse, the world that’s adapted is the world that survives.

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